Lawmakers and officials from eastern Ukraine on Saturday poured criticism on the fledging central government, accusing it of ignoring legitimate grievances of the regions that have been overrun by pro-Russia militia fighting for independence.
One eastern leader said last weekend’s unofficial referendum in favor of independence “expressed the will of the people.”
The criticism came in the second round of European-brokered talks intended to resolve the country’s worst crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ukraine’s caretaker government came to power in February after the ouster of Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych after months of protests in Kiev. Moscow and many in Ukraine’s east have accused the new government of intending to trample the rights of eastern Ukraine’s Russian-speakers.
On Saturday, politicians from the east implored the government to believe that — apart from the pro-Russia gunmen — a large sector of the population had lost hope in the interim administration in Kiev.
The second round of talks followed hours after sustained gunfire heard throughout the night near the eastern city of Slovyansk, the stronghold of pro-Russia fighters, after forces loyal to the Kiev government moved in to protect a television tower.